Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Sister study

Before I completed the pastel of my sister in an earlier post, I did a study from the photo. The graphite sketch isn't bad and actually came out better than the colored pencil versions that followed it.

I think one of the tendencies I've noticed in most of my portraits is that the subject ends up looking older than they are. In this particular study, she looks younger. I'm not sure why. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Old stuff

While looking back through an old sketchbook I found this. I'm pretty sure this is either from college or highschool so it's over 20 years old. The perspective is completely off but there are parts of it I really like.

This is a contour drawing for the most part, in which I put the pen down and did not lift it again until the entire sketch was finished.

Thursday, January 24, 2013


Went up to bed early the other day being tired. But found the window in our bedroom inviting a sketch.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Rappahannock Art League

I was off work on Monday thanks to the national holiday. On Mondays from 10 a.m. until noon the Rappahannock Art League, based in a gallery on Main Street in Kilmarnock, Virginia, hosts an opportunity for it's members to come in and paint/draw/sketch a model from life. This week there were about 8 people there including myself.

It is a clothed model and everyone puts a little money in the pot. The going rate this Monday was $7. I had forgotten to stop and get cash and they very kindly accepted a check from me. Part of the fee goes to the gallery for use of the studio at the back and part of the fee goes to pay the model. I'm not sure where they found the young lady who modeled for us, but she did a terrific job. I was about 10 minutes late for the beginning and they were already into 5 minute studies and gesture drawings. After a few five minute poses, we went into two 20 minute poses with a short break in between.

Most of us were drawing with various dry medium. There were a couple of painters there as well.

I focused on portraits in graphite because I had only brought along my sketch book. I learned that RAL provides easels if desired. I would love to try a larger study next time as I believe I overworked my drawings if for no other reason than I had time to do it. Working larger would keep me busy and prevent me from overworking.

Everyone was very pleasant and the work produced was good. It was nice to be among a group of artists and get in a little practise far less expensively than I could have pulled it off myself. They tell me that they change their models pretty much weekly. They were only half joking, I think, when they said they were looking for "an ugly man" but have plenty of beautiful young women to work with.

I know where I will be the next Monday morning I have off from work!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

My mother's hands

My mom is an artist. She does lovely work in watercolor but her true love is colored pencil. She is also an extremely good knitter. She thinks of herself as a knitter, a mother, a wife and a grandmother perhaps more than she thinks of herself as an artist. But her work is very good and she has been in national level competitions.

But she finds the engagement with other artists to be trying a times. She wants to be left alone to pursue her own subjects. She has taught but doesn't like teaching. She has taken lessons, but doesn't try to emulate the instructor. She is rather independent.

She has not shown any of her work in several years. In her mid-70s now, and with some health issues, she finds the entire process of matting, framing and delivery completely exhausting and tedious. She gets frustrated when she has to pay a fee to show her work and little sells. She forgets, I think, that we live in the middle of nowhere with a permanently depressed economy and local galleries have limitations.

But she has continued to work. She has piles of matted and unmatted colored pencil paintings that no one has ever seen but for family.

As her grandkids have reached adulthood and begun the journey of decorating their own homes, they have come to realize that not everyone has had the priviledge of orginal art work on the walls as they did growing up. They complain of roommates with tacky tastes in posters and without the ability to properly hang things on the wall. Over the holidays, we had Thanksgiving dinner at her house and many of her grandchildren were there, and mom mentioned that she wanted to get rid of some of these older paintings but didn't know what to do with them.

With that, we all trooped up the stairs and the grandkids decended on her set asides and rejects like vultures on road kill. It was a little frightening how they snatched up piece after piece. My son and his girlfriend admired some older framed work and she told them to take them.

Later, I apologized for the feeding frenzy but mom said she really appreciated the delight in their eyes. "I guess I need to get back to work," she said. "Someone actually likes my stuff."

Over the same weekend, I took pictures of many of my family members including the photo of my sister that resulted in a small painting in an earlier post. Mom mentioned that she has always wanted to do a painting of a knitters hands but could never figure out how to hold the knitting needles and the camera at the same time. So, she took up the pose and I snapped a couple of pictures over her shoulder.

I still need to get the pictures to her. But I took one of them and yesterday worked up this 9X12" pastel painting.

Underpainting with alcohol followed by Senneliar extra soft on Mi-Teintes grey. This is still taped to the drawing board and you can see some of the over wash from the underpainting.

Friday, January 18, 2013


Jack is a cat that seduced me at work. Well, he and his brother, Samhain, both. They came home with me one Friday evening just before Halloween. Ken was not amused. In fact, he was so mad I feared we were headed for separation. There was this problem he had with me aquiring animals without fulling discussing it with him... my problem was that, had I asked about it first, he would have said, "no" and there would have been no further discussion.

Fortunately, both Jack and Samhain charmed him before the weekend was out and both boys were permitted to stay. Samhain, the black, has become Ken's cat and demands lap time twice a day from him. Jack has become more of my pet and wakes me nearly every morning before dawn by putting his foot in my mouth while I sleep.

I want very much to present Samhain in pastel. His colors are rich and varied running from rose to pitch.

Jack has been an easier target and since he communicates with me more than Samhain, I have found it easier to get good reference photos of him. Here is a pastel I completed today.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Morning lavenders

I drive to work Monday through Friday and try to leave my house around 7:20 a.m. Sometimes I'm on time and sometimes I'm running late. Yesterday, was a day I got off to a bit of a late start. My beloved husband (who apparently also loves me) had scrapped a heavy frost off my car windows so I was not further delayed than I would have been.

In any case, I went driving southward up a country lane which runs between two farm fields. The corn stubble in one field on my right hand side was crisp with frost. As the sun rose just over a distant treeline and touched the tops of the plowed rows, I gasped as a brilliant lavender glow appeared in the shadows of the rows. I slowed down. I wanted to just stop the car and jump out and take a photo but I was running late, I was on a main road with cars behind me and I knew the camera would not catch what I was seeing. So I just watched while driving that one mile stretch as the sun moved a little higher on that clear January morning from 7:35 to 7:38. In just that 3 minute time frame, the colors moved from bright lavender to indigo to a dusty purple/blue grey. I know the time of day, the day of the year, the frosted gold of the corn stubble and the weather and the frost on the dark soil all played a part in this visual magic.

And I want to see it again. I want to find a way to record it.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Nose and lips

I'm fighting with my scanner and had wanted to show some sketches I've done in the last week but since I could not get it to work, here is a little thing I did a few weeks ago:

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Second painting

I have not touch a pastel in a very long time. In fact, I think I was probably 18 years old the last time I handled pastel. At the time, I did not think I did very well.

But I purchased pastels and I am determined to learn how to use them.

Here is my first effort. From life. It's a coffee cup that I set in a sunny window yesterday morning. I was amazed at how fast my light changed! Yikes.

This is on the backside of Mi Tienes paper. I'm happy with it. The photo of the drawing is much yellower than reality, I think.

Today, I went out and took pictures of the water near my neighbor's dock and will attempt do do a nice landscape at some point with those beautiful reflections.

This afternoon, I spent about 3 hours working on a portait of my sister. She lives in Colorado and came out at Thanksgiving to visit. I took her picture outside in the sunshine on the deck at our parent's house.

I started a colored pencil drawing from the same photo and I just could not get the eyes right. I put it aside but I did share it with her via Facebook. She liked it, but I like this one much more. I'ts looser and may not have a lot of resemblance, but I'm very pleased.

This is on a small 5X7 Ampersand Pastel Board. The center of this one board was different from the others in the pack and seemed smoother, but it took TONS of pastel. I love this board. I plan to try out other kinds of pastel supports. I alternated between hard and soft and blended very little with my fingers. I have not signed it yet and will wait a couple of days and look at it before I declare it completely done.
Detail work is very hard with soft, stumpy pastels. This is so tiny, I suspect I would be happier working larger as the lines do not have to be so fine and I could come back and cut back into it.
I made the mistake of leaving the receipt for the pastels out on the table and hubby saw it and is fixated on the California warning about some of the pastels being carcinegetic. Considering he smokes, I don't think he has much room to talk, but he fusses when I work without gloves.

Saturday, January 5, 2013


I graduated from West Springfield High School eons ago. I don't know much about their current art curriculm but I fear it may have gone the way of the SOLS here in Virginia. At the time, I honestly believe it was one of the strongest fine arts programs in a public high school in the country. I know there were at least three of my classmates accepted to Pratt University on full scholarships and several more getting additional financial assistance from other universities where they were going to study art. I still remember my art teacher's name: Mrs. Roberts. I know she has since died but I do wish she knew how much she really meant to me over the years. I remember she scared me half to death because she demanded such high standards.

I was surrounded by tough competition and never quite felt I could live up to the standard. But I was deeply encouraged and fortunate to have been one of about 12 area high school students to participate in a program sponsored by the Smithsonian Institute.

One day a week for one term, I got on a Metro bus and traveled downtown into D.C. and got off at the National Gallery of Fine Arts and spent the day with a resident artist there working on printmaking projects. It was the one and only time in my life I had the opportunity to work on lithography and etchings using real stones and real acid. I still have prints from those adventures.

Another term in my senior year, I was selected to participate in a similar program at the National Portrait Gallery where we were taught portraiture drawing. I was not able to participate in the painting class even though I really wanted to. Unfortunately, I no longer have these drawings.

I have retained however, the skills I learned in that class. I've also lost some. But I'm hoping it is more a matter of practise than actual loss of knowledge.

Here is a drawing I completed recently of my father. The whole head is too short and for some reason it is easy to see that with the scan but was not so easy to spot while I was drawing. It may have to do with being too close while drawing.

But it does look like him and I had no problem giving this to my mother.

This is just a study. A practise piece for this is just a tiny piece of a photograph I took of him sitting on my mother's floral print sofa with his large feet predominant in the picture. It needs to be done in colored pencil. The whole thing. Big.

When I will have the courage to tackle that project, I don't know. But I will.

Depression Hurts

For many years I have struggled with depression. Sometimes I knew and sometimes I didn't. When it lifts, however, it's as if a fog lifts or cataracts are removed from my eyes.

I can see color again! I see real color, deep colors, colors that grab my eyes and make me turn my head watching them change. I don't see this when I'm depressed.

I also see light. I see shadows and shapes created by light as it plays across the dimensional world.

About 2 years ago I began to change what I eat. I've eliminated soy from my diet. I eat lots of fat and red meat, liver and butter. I also consume cod liver oil. I started to feel better with less pain in my joints. I gained weight (the one thing I'm not happy about as I was already heavy). But more than that, I found myself less depressed.

I began to attend to things better. Not my messy house, but other aspects of my life.

Then one day, I was driving to work. The sun was shining and I passed a tractor. This tractor.

And I did not see a tractor. I saw a full blown painting of this tractor.

And every time I drove past this thing I saw the painting. Sometimes it was bright with color and sometimes it was subdued and sometimes it was just a drawing.

One bright Sunday morning, I drove out and stopped and took pictures of the tractor. Then I came home and told my husband I was going to draw it.

But I had no art supplies at all. I had given them all away or thrown them out. I had thrown away my whole portfolio, in fact.

But I had pencils and I had pens and I had printer paper.

This tractor needed to be a color picture. I knew that. So I drew a picture of my husband instead. He didn't like it much. But I was happy.

Then I drew him again. I liked it even more. He still wasn't thrilled, but too bad. He needs to stop sitting still or sleeping if he wants me not to use him as a subject.

I bought some paper and some charcoal. I drew the sheep.

Then I bought drawing pencils and drew my sons from photos. I liked one a lot but I need another photo, a better photo, of the other sons.

At my spinning and weaving guild, they wanted a logo for the guild and I offered to come up with one. They liked it. Someone in the guild decided I must be an artist and when the Tavern Foundation hosted an art show for it's member, they invited me. I accepted and then realized I need to draw something to show. I framed the pictures I had so far.

Framing has become a very expensive undertaking in the last 20 years! Yikes.

I set up to do a drawing demonstration and worked through another picture of my husband taken from a photograph. This one even he liked.

I drew little pictures and sketches in my old sketch book. I bought a new one. I bought graphite pencils and find I really enjoy them. I started making a least one new sketch almost every day.

I started looking at art work done by other artists on the internet. I looked at work done by painters who work almost every day. One small work is completed every day. They are good. Their paintings are loose. Sometimes their work appeals to me and sometimes it doesn't.

Oil painting seems to dominate this world, but then I found some pastelists. I love pastel. It is pure color. Just color layered, parked next to each other, sometimes muted, often bright and vibrant. It just depends on what the artist is seeing (and in part, what pastel is available). Shapes, values, hue. Simple, lovely and challenging. But they are very expensive. They are paint without fillers, so you pay for the color itself. I hesitated.

But the tractor still called me.

I talked to my mother about colored pencils and she gave me some Derwent watercolor pencils that she was not using. I bought myself a smallish set of Prismacolors. I like the colored pencils... but egad they are slow to use!

With Christmas money this year, I purchased a nice set of Sennilier Soft Pastels. They arrived this week.

I haven't used them yet but they are on my list for this weekend. I'm just waiting for the sun to come up.